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Cowboys depth tested further

Jim Morton 17/06/2011 04:40:20 PM Comments (0)

Injury-riddled North Queensland have been left vulnerable to their first home defeat to the Warriors in nine years after losing Scott Bolton ahead of Saturday night's NRL clash.

The Cowboys' thinning back-row and centres depth has been further exposed by a calf strain Bolton sustained at training on Wednesday.

It was to be the 2010 revelation's first start for the year and a chance to impress back on the left edge after being asked to play a different role in the middle of the park this season.

Bolton had been switched back to his preferred position due to the suspension of Glenn Hall and the club's centre crisis which had forced the switch of Gavin Cooper into the wing.

But the injury blow has seen coach Neil Henry reshuffle his line-up again with Cooper to start in the back-row and Will Tupou promoted from the bench to start in the centres at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

Tupou was originally overlooked after Antonio Winterstein (pectoral tear) this week joined ex-Test centres Brent Tate (knee) and Willie Tonga (shoulder) on the sidelines.

Henry preferred to look on the bright side with leaders Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott returning from State of Origin duty in good shape.

"We can't do anything about it, there's no point moping around," he said of Bolton's injury. "Toops comes in, he started the season at right centre and was very good for a while and scored a couple of tries, and he's looking forward to an opportunity.

"We'll get on with it."

The Warriors - who last tasted success in Townsville in 2002, the season the Kiwis made the grand final - do have their own back-row injury problem with tackling machine Micheal Luck (knee) missing.

Former Cowboy Steve Rapira has moved into the second-row as a result, while Jacob Lillyman also returns to play at Dairy Farmers after leaving North Queensland in 2008.

The Warriors are smarting after giving up a 22-4 lead with 15 minutes left against the Wests Tigers and are desperate not to fall to a third straight loss.

Henry predicted a highly-physical clash between the two top-eight teams and said it was crucial for all his players lift to assist Thurston and Scott.

"They pride themselves on backing up after Origin and have come through okay," he said. "There's no doubt that our other players have to step up as well."

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